Margaret and Malcolm Canmore_
Margaret and Malcolm Canmore


Malcolm III (Canmore)  was the first of the House of Canmore having killed both Macbeth and his son Lulach, and was crowned at Scone in 1058.  The various descendent’s of Malcolm Canmore ruled Scotland for the next 200 years.

Peace with the North was achieved through Malcolm’s marriage with Ingibiorg, daughter of Thorfinn, Jarl of Orkney, but she died leaving Malcolm a widower. In 1070 Malcolm married Margaret, the great-niece of Edward the Confessor. She had fled to Scotland with her brother Edgar the Atheling, the Anglo-Saxon heir to the English throne, after William I excluded him from the English succession.

Margaret’s impact was dramatic. She favoured the Roman Catholic church to the Celtic Church and brought Benedictine monks to establish an abbey at Dunfermline.  


Dunfermline Abbey byJohn_Slezer

In doing this it allowed her to feel more at home, Malcolm decreed that the language used at court should be Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic. As a result Malcolm III was the first to be called “King of Scotland” in his own time. Margaret also had built what is today called St Margaret’s Chapel, in the highest part of Edinburgh Castle.

St Marys Chapel, Edinburgh

St Marys Chapel, Edinburgh

Malcolm and Margaret had eight children one of which was to become David I. Scotland was to se a religious revival and improved administration under David I, he was one of Malcolm’s most successful children. All of his children had English names rather than Gaelic. His three children from his first marriage had gaelic names.

It was the time of the Norman conquest of England. Malcolm took advantage of this and repeatedly invaded northern England but this ended with Malcolm being killed along with his heir, Edward, in a border skirmish.

Malcolm’s brother seized the throne to become King Donald III on Malcolm’s death.  He was commonly called Donald Ban, meaning “the Fair” (anglicised to Donalbain). Malcolm’s sons by Saint Margaret fled into exile in England to join their older half-brother by their father’s first marriage, his elder half-brother, King Duncan II who  briefly deposed Donald III in 1094.   But when Duncan was murdered within the year, Donald regained the throne, possibly with the assistance of another of Malcolm’s sons, Edmund, with whom some have alleged that he reigned as joint ruler. He was eventually ousted by another of Malcolm’s sons in 1097 and was blinded.

Edgar  “the Peaceable” or “the Valiant”, was responsible for the deposition of his uncle Donald in 1097 and took the throne.   He reigned until 1107, but bore no issue and thus, upon his death Scotland  was split between two of his younger brothers; his elder brother, Alexander was given the northern half of Scotland, as well as the official crown, whilst his younger brother gained the southern half.  He was a particularly fierce ruler, and this split nearly caused another Canmore family squabble but Henry I of England supported his younger brother’s rights and Alexander was forced to comply. When he too died without children, the crown and Scotland in its entirety therefore passed to the younger brother. He reigned from 1107-1124.

The throne then passes to Edgar’s younger brother David I.   David must have initially looked an unlikely candidate for the Scottish Crown, but he proved to be one of the most influential rulers in Scottish history, expanding on his mother Margaret’s ecclesiastical patronage by founding many cathedrals and monasteries.   By 1124 Scotland had become a fully established Kingdom under David I and flourished in peace, until the arrival of Edward I as King of England in 1274. He was ambitious to become overlord of Scotland, and saw his chance  when Alexander III, the descendant of David I, was killed falling from his horse, and  left no heir.

King David’s son, Prince Henry, predeceased his father by a year, the crown passed to David’s elder grandson. Known as Malcolm the Maiden due to his never marrying, and noted for his piety, his reign saw generally peaceful cooperation with England, but also witnessed the rebellion led by Somerled, Lord of the Isles and King of Man.  Malcolm was succeeded by his younger brother on his death, King William I (who was later called William the Lion).  He was one of the main banes of Henry II’s existence and annoyed John Lackland nearly as much, though managed to remain on good terms with Richard I. Regarding domestic policy, he was heavily involved in attempts to crush the Mac Uilleim rebels (descendants of Duncan II) and was also extremely thorough in reorganising the legal system. He was probably the first Scottish monarch to use the Lion Rampant. He was the longest reigning of the Canmore monarchs, from 1165-1214.

After King Malcolm IV came King Alexander IICalled the “Fox-cub” by King John for his fiery red hair.  Alexander began his reign by bringing the remainder of the Mac Uilleims to heel in a bloody fashion (he had the skull of a Mac Uilleim newborn girl smashed in as a reminder).  In the treaty of 1237, Alexander and Henry III  first established a specific border between Scotland and England. He reigned from 1214-1249.

Alexander III was the last Canmore.  His reign is often seen as a golden age of relative peace and economic growth.

On Alexander III’s death his granddaughter Margaret (Maid of Norway) was recognised as “right heir”, as it had been agreed in Alexander’s lifetime, but she was never inaugurated as Queen of Scots. The House of Dunkeld became extinct in 1286, when Alexander III (1249-1286) died as a result of an accident, leaving only a young granddaughter, Margaret of Norway, to succeed him. Margaret, known as the ‘Maid of Norway’, died on the journey to Scotland to take up the throne, leaving a number of claimants to dispute their right to Scotland’s crown.

This was the end of the Kings and Queens from The House of Canmore.

Kings & Queens of The House of Canmore

Malcolm III (Canmore) (1058-1093)

Donald Ban (1093-1094)

Duncan II (May-November 1094)

Donald Ban and Edmund (1094-1097)

Edgar (The Peaceable) (1097-1107)

Alexander (The Fierce) (1107-1124)

David I (1124-1153)

Malcolm IV (The Maiden) (1153-1165)

William (The Lion) (1165-1214)

Alexander II (1214-1249)

Alexander III (1249-1286)

Margaret (Maid of Norway) (1286-1290)

Malcolm III's Family tree